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Old December 15, 2016, 09:17 AM   #1
Kimio
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Career in firearms training/safety? Some questions for those in the field.

I love bringing new people into the sport of shooting firearms. As much as I love the idea of teaching people the joys of shooting and doing so safely, I am extremely skeptical if you can make a decent living doing it.

I'm not entirely sure where to even start in terms of education and such when it comes to this kind of thing. Which brings me to my questions for those who are in the field of firearms safety and training.

First, what do I need to do to become a certified instructor. This will likely vary from state to state, but I'm mainly looking to do this somewhere in AZ.

I have some military experience, but I'm not infantry nor am I security, which makes my time in the service pretty much moot (Any trigger time I get is done by my own volition and with my own arms/ammo. Such is the life of a pencil pusher sadly).

Second, for those who are in this line of work, how do you keep bread on the table? I imagine most trainers work at a local range and supplement the time in between classes by working as a clerk selling firearms or operating as a range officer (if not both).

There are very few things in life that I genuinely feel joy doing as a job. Educating and helping others with firearms is one of them, but seeing as I'd like to have a family eventually, I don't know if pursuing something like this is a wise career choice.

Any input would be appreciated.
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Old December 15, 2016, 10:54 AM   #2
Glenn E. Meyer
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It would be hard to make a full time living at this at first.

As far as education - self-taught is not a good idea. You need a quality experience after basic and civilian firearms training to achieve a high level of competency. Then you need instructor specific training.

One excellent source is www.rangemaster.com with Tom Givens.
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Old December 15, 2016, 11:19 AM   #3
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I've been shooting for many, many years. I shot major competitions for years and I've been a certified instructor for many years. I'm positive that you can't make a decent living teaching people how to shoot. The people who make a "living" working in a gun store don't make a very good living. The person who might make a decent living is the owner of the store and it has to be a store doing a good business. I have made some friends in shooting over the years who have tried to live off the shooting industry and failed. I know some top ranked international sporting clays shooters who live in provided housing (usually a shack or cabin) on a range and arrange shoots and give lessons on the side. They barely make enough to take care of themselves. About twenty years ago someone asked me why I didn't try to shoot professionally. Simple answer: there are about a dozen shooters in the world who make enough money shooting to maintain a reasonably decent life style. Not a great life style, just decent. I was making a very good salary with benefits at the time and could afford to go to all the shoots I wanted to, anywhere I wanted to. Why rock the boat? I know a couple of people who work at places that provide "expert" training for a week or so of shooting and seminars (I won't use any business or personal names here) and they aren't making enough to do the things they want to do. There simply isn't a lot of money to be made in shooting. In the grand scheme of sports that money can be made in, shooting is way down the list. Even the Olympic shooting sports are woefully under funded. How many people can name any of the US team in the biathalon? If you want to make money training full time, it probably isn't going to happen. The ones who do attempt to do this are also top notch shooters who have won many major competitions. No ones going to pay out big bucks to get trained by someone who has no track record of success. It's a great fantasy, but it won't pay the bills. Now, this is only my opinion so take it for what it's worth. I know a lot of top shooters and they almost all have a day job.
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Old December 15, 2016, 11:12 PM   #4
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Hate to break your bubble, but I second what NoSecondBest has stated.

One of my best friends that I have known for 20 years tried making a go of being a professional shooter. He is a name that anyone that follows the shooting sports would recognize (especially if you followed it 4-6 years ago), so it is not like he is just some guy that decided to give it a go. He has an impressive background in the "gun world": starting from his time in the military where he was a Ranger, to winning some some big matches before going "pro" and not working another job.

Before he started a family, he was able to support himself as a shooter, but just barely. He would win prize money, do some sponsor events, and give lessons when he was home. And all this combined got him an apartment in a not so great neighborhood and a 10 year old truck that left him stranded in some less than desirable places. But man he was loving it.

When he got engaged, married, and had a kid shortly thereafter he realized very quickly that he needed more income. He got a job as a LEO here in town, and now has a stable paycheck to count on every 2 weeks. He still shoots competitively and gives lessons, but it is all supplemental income to his day job.

You only live once though, if you want to give it the ole college try then have at it. We all do things that are for fun while our time may be better spent do something "productive." Just know before going in that it is like any other professional sport.

I relate it back to my baseball career. We had 120 kids try out for my baseball team in high school. 18 made the team. 2% of all high school athletes play in college, and then 1% of college athletes get paid to play after college. After college I was offered a bus ticket and $350/week to go play low-level minor league ball. I had already outperformed 99.8% of everyone by making to the level that I did, but I knew that I was never going to make a living of it. So I joined the working world and put my education to work. My point is this, the odds are small, but if you enjoy it and want to try and make it work, be the other .2% and kick some butt!
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Old December 16, 2016, 01:47 PM   #5
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Yes, keep your hobby separate from your real job.
You know the one that clothes, feeds and houses you.
And lets you buy ammo.
There's a lot of firearms instructors who do it just part time for their own satisfaction.
Many gun shops, especially those with a range, would hire a knowledgeable one.
And you can trade the income (if there is any) for store credit, too.
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Old December 16, 2016, 04:49 PM   #6
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The first place I would start is an NRA Instructor's course. Then find a range that is looking for an instructor. Also look into Instructor Liability Insurance. You are responsible for every person you train even years after you trained them.
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Old December 16, 2016, 05:39 PM   #7
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The first place I would start is an NRA Instructor's course. Then find a range that is looking for an instructor. Also look into Instructor Liability Insurance. You are responsible for every person you train even years after you trained them.
Not sure where you got this info, but I've been an instructor for a little over twenty years and this is the first time I've heard about it. The other instructors I know aren't aware of it either. It's certainly not something that is applicable to the state where I live.
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Old December 16, 2016, 06:48 PM   #8
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Not applicable in Colorado either.
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Old December 16, 2016, 07:14 PM   #9
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The only real way to make a good living as a full time firearm instructor is to find a police agency that has full instructors, get hired as an officer put your time in take the classes to get your certifications, adjunct as often as the Sgt.will allow, then test for the position when ever it come available and hope you are high enough to get transfered over to the detail.

That is about the only way I know of, that has the best odds of becoming a full time firearm instructor making a decent living and good benefits. It also has a built in customer base that doesn't require you to go out and hustle for customers, or ever worry if a class is going to cancel resulting in you missing a mortgage payment.
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Old December 16, 2016, 07:48 PM   #10
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You can do it on the internet, with no training.
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Old December 16, 2016, 08:09 PM   #11
James K
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Most "trainers" are simply range officers (club members) who have some experience and who give training as part of the hobby. Some have no formal training, others have NRA certificates and wide experience and knowledge. But most clubs want to encourage membership, so it is not in their interest to "weed out" many people; in fact, they will certify as many applicants as possible.

Police trainer may be OK, but generally police officers are not encouraged to take on private training for a number of reasons, mainly liability. Even where departments have "civilian" instructors they are prohibited from training persons not in the department, for reasons that should be obvious. The pay will be decent, but the trainer, even if not a sworn officer, is under the control of the department and restricted to training officers.

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Old December 16, 2016, 09:05 PM   #12
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Many sworn LE officers train civilians on the side particularly in conceal carry classes as a secondary income.
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Old December 16, 2016, 10:31 PM   #13
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Training shooters, to me, is not a career in firearms. It is teaching. If you are comfortable in front of a group, and can relate to and instruct at an individual level, then get your instructor rating and go for it. You'll need a place to teach, a range, and advertising and marketing. That means some capital.

You need enough population within a 30 minute drive to fill your sessions. A restaurant needs 25,000 people in the vicinity to thrive, you'll need more. Everyone eats, not everyone shoots.

I can't see why marketing to the female gun owner is not a valid concept, should put you one up on the male instructors.

Probably shouldn't plan on full-time time for a year or more. Evenings and Saturdays to begin.
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Old December 17, 2016, 09:24 AM   #14
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generally police officers are not encouraged to take on private training for a number of reasons, mainly liability. Even where departments have "civilian" instructors they are prohibited from training persons not in the department, for reasons that should be obvious. The pay will be decent, but the trainer, even if not a sworn officer, is under the control of the department and restricted to training officers.
Not true, the typical restrictions are, the employee needs to notify agency of outside work,(this is typical of any kind of work outside of the agency even if the officer has a landscaping company on the side). Must use own/original training outlines, will not use agency facilities for their individual profit ( unless there is a rental clause that is available to the general public) will not use agency targets, ammo and weapons (other than the individuals issued gun) for individual profit.
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Old December 17, 2016, 10:43 AM   #15
shafter
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Honestly, with your resume you won't be making a living as a firearms instructor. Even highly trained LE/military/competitors can struggle making a living at it. People don't get good firearm jobs because of their passion, they get them because of skills and experience (and luck) in other areas that carry over to the industry.

You can still teach people to shoot and have fun with your hobby. In fact you'll have more fun and keep the passion alive if you don't bury it under a struggling business.
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Old December 17, 2016, 12:51 PM   #16
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A professional shooter isn't the same thing. Professional shooters like Jerry Miculek, Tom Givens and all the rest are sponsored by firearms manufacturers, etc.
There's no money in it unless you've won a bunch of IPSC/IDPA/USPSA/NRA national and/or world titles. Even then you need to have the skills needed to run a small business and money for insurance.
In any case, it's hard enough to get a new shooter to recognise that he/she needs training. Never mind that he/she needs to pay for it.
Read the assorted posts about becoming a gun smith ad opening a shop. Most of the responses apply to being a shooting instructor. Especially the part about no entry level jobs and minimum wage.
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Old December 17, 2016, 01:11 PM   #17
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The insurance that I am aware of came out in the 1990's. I don't know of any instructors who took it out because the premiums were not sky high they were moon high. I was a Security Firearms Instructor at the time and came under the company's insurance. There is a possibility that it is no longer being offered. I have been fortunate in that the people I have trained were security officers working for licensed companies or police officers working for my agency.
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Old December 17, 2016, 02:13 PM   #18
Glenn E. Meyer
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Another consideration - where will you teach? Do you have access to a range? Classroom with AV? Do you know how to run modern AV tech?

Nothing like seeing a class belly up as the videos go south.

As said, the people who do make a living have serious physical plant investment or arrangements as visiting teachers to places with serious physical plant.

I saw a local range run off an instructor who just showed up at the range and commandeered a set of targets for his class.

This is a depressing thread in a sense, but being an professional in any field takes time.

In a way, this is analogous to a good home cook who wants to open up a restaurant. The failure rate for such is 80% the first year and a similar percent the second year for those who made it past the first.

BTW, the NRA courses are insufficient for a full array of teaching abilities. I took some of them. I've seen CHL teachers who don't know some basics when you talk to them.
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Old December 17, 2016, 08:40 PM   #19
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I agree that no ones going to pay out big bucks to get trained by someone who has no track record of success so I can see why it might be hard to get into, but in my area quality defensive handgun classes are usually booked way in advance, gives me the impression that qualified good instruction is lacking... or in demand? With the increase in CHLs and gun purchases growing and selling one would think there would be a demand for increased qualified instruction.
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Old December 17, 2016, 08:43 PM   #20
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I agree that no ones going to pay out big bucks to get trained by someone who has no track record of success so I can see why it might be hard to get into, but in my area quality defensive handgun classes are usually booked way in advance, gives me the impression that qualified good instruction is lacking... or in demand? With the increase in CHLs and gun purchases growing and selling one would think there would be a demand for increased qualified instruction.
It's not like opening a pizzeria. People can get a pizza every week forever. They only need to take a course one time. Your area will reach a saturation point sooner or later. I've been seeing this happen in several areas.
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Old December 17, 2016, 09:20 PM   #21
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It's not like opening a pizzeria. People can get a pizza every week forever. They only need to take a course one time. Your area will reach a saturation point sooner or later. I've been seeing this happen in several areas.
I do think thats a good point, but I just know there is a lot of guns being sold out there last black Friday I stopped by Sportsmans Wayerhouse and the gun counter was packed you would have to take a number. I also know there are a lot of gun owners out there that have never taken formal training... I bet they are a majority even on this forum. I think the ticket would be to figure out how to convince all these untrained gun owners to take a class. I see a lot of fragmentation in the gun training industry... maybe something needs to change there to help standardize good instruction and certification from poor. I don't know just thinking out of the box but I do know there is a lot of gun owners out there that have never taken a class... that needs to change. Kinda sad to think about actually.
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Old December 17, 2016, 09:34 PM   #22
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Most states only require that a handgun applicant take a home safety course if they require anything at all. I think too many people think there are more people in need of training than there actually are. Most people don't have much interest in taking a course beyond what is required to get a CCW permit. I've been doing this for years, I'm an instructor, and I have shooting friends all over the country. This isn't new to me. I can tell you for a fact that the demand for certification classes will slow down after a while. There's only a certain percent of the population in a given area that will get handguns and they won't be taking any more training than they are mandated to. It's simply not as popular as you'd like to believe.
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Old December 17, 2016, 09:39 PM   #23
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Most states only require that a handgun applicant take a home safety course if they require anything at all. I think too many people think there are more people in need of training than there actually are. Most people don't have much interest in taking a course beyond what is required to get a CCW permit. I've been doing this for years
this is true but Im not talking about the minimum requirement for a concealed handgun permit... Most people do not want to take advanced defensive gun classes, or even classes to improve their basic marksmanship.
The gun industry needs to figure out why this is and fix that... (it would help our Second Amendment cause as well to have people better trained)
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Old December 17, 2016, 11:51 PM   #24
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this is true but Im not talking about the minimum requirement for a concealed handgun permit... Most people do not want to take advanced defensive gun classes, or even classes to improve their basic marksmanship.
The gun industry needs to figure out why this is and fix that... (it would help our Second Amendment cause as well to have people better trained)
You can't "fix" what isn't broke. Shooting just isn't that popular in the grand scheme of entertainment. Golf, watching team sports, and a lot of other things are much more entertaining to the vast majority of Americans. I shot competition for many, many years and traveled around the country doing it. I could be five hundred miles from home and it was the same faces I saw at the last match a thousand miles away. Most people, even the ones who own guns, just don't have that much interest in it. That's just the way it is.
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Old December 18, 2016, 12:04 AM   #25
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I concede... sad but true, so much for the "well regulated" part...
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